After the RN Warns Me About the Blood

Kelly Weber

—so much the pap smear might not be able to catch cancer—after I push

myself onto my elbows alone in the room and try to clean

off the red smudged across my belly, after the masked phlebotomist

cinches a strip of black medical tape around my arm and tells me

her plans to go home and cook dinner with her brother

when her shift is done in five minutes, after I keep thinking

about the nurse who offered to sterilize me because I knew best

if I wanted another soft fontanelle breaking

into the world through me, after I fold my diagnosis

of menhorragia, > three months and walk almost all the way home

by the highway during the 4:30pm Friday rush hour, after a man

with a rattlesnake tattoo gives me a ride the rest of the way,

after I don’t tell my mother, after I walk to work the following Monday

on a sidewalk so slick with wet pink petals I nearly slip

on their sweet skin, after I crouch in my office

with the door closed and open my knees

to try to push the clots through, after I watch a young man

in glasses wrestle and sweat to plant young plum trees

in the parking lot median, after I think about

my compromised immune system holding me open

to each thing that could kill me—each way someone doesn’t care enough

about this to change some small thing in their day,

in the way their palms or their breath touch—after I start crying

into my keyboard, after my boss offers to drive me home

and admits he was not well sheltering in place this winter

either, after he says it is okay not to be okay,

after he tells me to sleep in a dark room and take the next day off

too if needed, after I put my arm across my eyes

and remember dancing with girls in the armory, how I saw

my pale face nerveless and remote as a moon in the bathroom lights,

after I remember the girl who kissed each of her palms

and pressed them to my cheeks, after I remember

the six-foot-five boy who cupped his gentle hands

like two halves of a pomegranate when he sat

on the edge of my roommate’s bed, after I remember

hearing he was gone, when I had to pull over

onto the dirt shoulder of the road

beneath the billboard with Jesus on one side

and a pregnant belly on the other

above the field of harvested dusk,

and I remember all the times I begged god

to keep all my friends alive just another hour just another day,

like the words could hold onto the bunched backs of their shirts

and keep them here just like this—stay,

stay with me, please, just another minute—

after I name each thing I can’t save

but before the results come back

I text you: please tell me

you’re on your way.

about the author